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Virtualization Taking Aim At The Desktop

Virtualization has become quite popular in the data center where it has helped companies consolidate their server farms. Vendors are now pushing similar movement at the desktop, but to date, the potential benefits have not been as compelling nor usage as widespread, although that may change in the coming months.

With desktop virtualization, which we reviewed starting with our VDI Rolling Review Kick-Off, traditional PCs are replaced with virtual machines that do not house application software, an approach that offers companies some potential advantages. Users gain access to applications from anywhere (at their desk, working at home, traveling on the road) and can use any type of device and any network connection.

Consequently, businesses are becoming interested in the technology. "Recently, companies have expressed a growing interest in desktop virtualization," noted Chris Wolf, an analyst at Burton Group Inc. In response, vendors, such as Citrix, Pano Logic, Symantec, Oracle, and VMware, have developed desktop virtualization products.

Corporations see potential benefits in moving to desktop virtualization. They can get new users up and running fairly quickly. Also, items, such as upgrades and patches, can be completed faster. Rather than have to populate operating system and application updates to remote PCs, IT departments can change software running on one system and impact all users. From these changes, companies can realize PC desktop support cost reductions of 20 percent or more in certain cases. As a result, the technology has appealed to educational institutions which are constantly looking for ways to curb IT spending.

Security can also be enhanced. Since end users cannot open new applications or store data locally, virtual desktops enable IT administrators to more tightly control end-user activity. Data that is centralized is less likely to walk out of the door at the end of the day. Because of this, desktop virtualization has garnered interest from health care companies and financial institutions, which have high levels of security. While sounding good in theory, this option can present corporations with challenges.  "Companies have to take a very close look at their IT infrastructure to determine if moving to desktop virtualization makes sense for them," said Mark Bowker, senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

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